A Trial of Blood & Steel
The great powers of the Saalshen Bacosh are falling. The feudal army of the Regent Balthaar Arosh marches victorious across Rhodaan and Enora, determined to restore the old human ways that were abolished by the serrin of Saalshen two centuries before. The army of Lenayin marches in their wake, in shame. The greater battle was won, yet Lenayin's part in it was defeat, their king slain, their warriors sent running from the field.
Sashandra Lenayin marches with her people, yet she sees the carnage the Regent's armies are inflicting upon her former allies, and like most Lenays, she feels dishonored. Sasha leads three quarters of the army of Lenayin to defect and fight for Saalshen, leaving her brothers Koenyg and Myklas with the Verenthane hardliners to fight for the Regent.
All forces now converge on the city of Jahnd, an Enoran word meaning "Haven." A city of humanity's refugees in Saalshen, its serrin hosts have allowed it to build into a major power over the centuries, humankind's only outpost in Saalshen. But the Saalshen Bacosh's third province, the mountainous land of Ilduur, refuses to come to the aid of its neighbors and without it victory is impossible. Sasha must lead a delegation to the Ilduuri capital, to combat the xenophobic Ilduuri regime's retreat into isolation, and convince the Ilduuri army to defy their own leaders and rise up in rebellion to fight a foreign war that most Ilduuris do not want.
To save Saalshen and all that she loves about Lenayin, Sasha must become a true Lenay warlord, feared and hated by her enemies, uncompromising and all conquering. But will her own people now inflict upon her one of her worst nightmares, by insisting that she, and not her brother Damon, should assume the Lenay throne and lead her people in the greatest battle that the land of Rhodia has ever seen?
Praise for Tracato, Book Three of A Trial of Blood and Steel:
"…vivid battle sequences and complex relationships between colorful, passionate characters leave the reader wanting to know Sasha and company's final fate."
"The characters are well done and it's nice to see a novel about war that deals with the effects on the population rather than just the machinations of the people in power."
Praise for Joel Shepherd's Sasha (Book One):
"Sasha is addicting. The pace is perfect. Very little time is spent with a true introduction—we learn the world and its characters through story of the book rather than an extended prologue. As I was reading Sasha I would loose time, I would read another chapter because I just had to, and I lost the very precious commodity of sleep—I'm not sure there is a greater compliment I can give a book... If Sasha is any indication, A Trial of Blood & Steel will become a force to be reckoned within the fantasy world and I highly recommend it. 8/10."
"Sasha is an excellent opening to A Trial of Blood & Steel. The interweaving of war, politics, religion, geography, family and a non-human race are skillfully done. Anyone who likes his or her fantasy to be as intellectually complex as it is entertaining would do well to pick up this book."
"Sasha reads like a pleasant melding of The Lord of the Rings, medieval-style warfare and intrigue mingled with the political and religious wranglings of Dune. In fact, Sasha makes a nice parallel to Dune's Paul Atreides. With a galloping plot and plenty of swordplay, honor, dishonor, treacheries, and victories, Sasha is a worthy addition to the heroic fantasy genre."
"Sasha's torturous path to maturity, complete with painful missteps, is sensitively conveyed, and while I definitely cheered for her, I also found myself arguing with her — and in a way, that's a higher compliment to pay an author... The second book, Petrodor, will likely be on the shelves by the time you are reading this. Go pick it up — I know I will."
"...those who savor the intricacies of rival religions, vividly choreographed fights, and lots of bloody battle will enjoy it.... this heroic fantasy should please fans of, say, George R. R. Martin's Song of Fire and Ice novels."
"It doesn't seem fair that I should review two books by the same authors in back-to-back months, but Joel Shepherd and James Enge have left me no choice: Sasha (Pyr, $16, 514 pages) and This Crooked Way (Pyr, $16, 400 pages) are just too good to ignore... Shepherd has started a new tetraology with Sasha called "A Trial of Blood and Steel," and it's set in the typical pre-industrial world, but with limited magic. With three other books to come, and Shepherd's intricate plots depending as much on political and economic issues as on interpersonal relationships, it takes him a while to set the scene. But once through the exposition, Sasha is just my kind of book: complex, action-packed, realistic and unpredictable... I enjoyed Sasha as much as any book I've read recently and was disappointed when I finished it. Volume two can't come soon enough."
"[H]ighly readable. It is an original and fresh heroic fantasy, showcasing a well drawn, well realized world filled with fascinating, three dimensional characters who pulled me in for the ride and carried me away. I got totally sucked into this book, completely against all expectations, which, when you think about it, makes it all the better... Joel Shepherd's first foray into fantasy has paid dividends with this book—it is the first such fantasy I have read in a long time where I finished the last page, put it down and thought, 'I wonder when the next one will come out.' I hope Shepherd revisits Sasha's world soon—there's a lot of story to explore!"
"The whole book had me hardly able to put it down, and my perpetual human need for sleep continually stood in the way of decent reading time. The vague allusions towards what will come in the sequel... Petrodor has me eager to read more. This is definitely a book you will want to pick up. Not the world's hardest read, but downright and thoroughly enjoyable."